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Monday, April 21, 2014

In White America

Jaime R. Vergara

The headline grabber in news US of A are the secessionist petitions being forwarded to the White House after the last presidential election. The focus, of course, is on the separatist spirit, not unhistorically related to the southern Confederacy that propelled the union to a civil war more than a century ago. Sparse as the numbers still are, the media attention is on those who have yet to accept an Obama election victory. I find the encouraging news to be the fact that the executive office structured a “democratic” ear to the grassroots pulse, making a petition with 25,000 signatories eligible for a West Wing response.

Texas is at the head of the secession movement with some Austin residents opting for a counter petition to remain within the federal union. The "six flags over Texas" refers to flags that flew over the territory in its history since the Iberian emblem was hoisted when Spain came calling. The state is favored by Filipino immigrants, finding its wet gulf and dry southwest weather friendly, and recognizing an affinity for the residents of Tejas (a Caddo term for "friend") having been called once as Nuevo Reino de Filipinas: La Provincia de Texas.

We recall that a bunch of illegal volunteers (e.g., Davy Crockett) came in defense of the Alamo that supported a secessionist movement from Mexico. Its subsequent declaration of independence contributed to the first Spanish-American War. No matter. A relevant question that is being raised is whether it is fair for Texas to be treated in the same way as Vermont. Not an altogether impertinent question of governance. It begs the question of how to structure representational democracy as dramatically revealed in the result of the last election.

The popular vote was a split of 51 percent Obama against 49 percent Romney, a close enough tally that sent the media projecting a close contest. The electoral votes, however, were 332 Obama vs. 203 Romney. The popular vote on the congressional election is also very telling. The Democrats won it by a healthy margin, but the GOP won a majority of the seats. Smart gerrymandering of congressional districts made it possible, e.g., for four districts once evenly divided between the reds and the blues, to be redistricted so that one district become a surefire Blue, while the other three became predominantly Red.

First, we concede that Romney won White America in the last election. But White America lost the civil war a century earlier, though many states remain threatened and defensive over the diversity that has come to characterize the nation since.

White sheet-draped-and-hooded members of the KKK solemnly gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina last week to assert once more the perceived rights and prerogatives of America’s Aryan race. The maturity of some Americans was heartening when metropolitan Charlotte’s other Caucasians responded not in kind but with levity and humor. They sent in the clowns, a disruptive but nonviolent counter protest.

I came to the U.S. in 1965 and bought my first vinyl LP, called "In White America," which narrated the journey of the African-American from the southern plantation days to the ’60s. The stirring MLK "I Have A Dream" civil rights march speech two years before was included, along with dramatic readings of historical narratives and recorded protest songs. We joined that voice in a march in Washington a month before it was silenced in Memphis.

I lived in Kentucky, Texas, and North Carolina, in places where White America craftily dominated. I got in trouble in the Blue Grass State when I commented that the ambience of the horse farms were more pleasant than the public schools. I attended a church-related university in a rich section of North Dallas where the John Birch Society prominently displayed their banner a block down my dorm. I had my first full-time job in a lily-white institution in Greensboro, NC, headquarters to the KKK, where two Tar Heels in the Piedmont who received my services insisted on calling me Mr. Smith rather than learn my Hispanic surname. In-kind, and in turn, I called them Billy and Bob Jones!

My LP album is long gone. But I can still recall the album’s cover, the title on a papier-mâché background with a crack on the word "america" (all in small letters). That album pretty much set the tone of my relationship with the country’s elite and its belligerent citizens ever since.

We were inside the Beltway when Bill Clinton came to D.C. He was white America’s sax soul brother, as Elvis Presley’s music was bleached Memphis tunes in the shadows. Now, interracial Obama comes with a white Kansas mother and a black Kenyan father, born in rainbow country Hawaii, exposed at a tender age to Mecca’s call to prayer, and tempered in a familiar neighborhood of Chicago. The formula does not sit well with the milk, white bread, and steak-and-potato crowd!

His presidency opened with economic stimulus legislation. Obamacare, Wall Street reform, and consumer protection were divisive not on the offense but on the defense. Repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell" led to support for same-sex marriage. He called off the Iraq War, upped Afghanistan exposure with a timeline. He supported the ouster of Kaddafi, and authorized the assassination of Osama bin laden.

Like him or not, the man has four more years to rally the U.S. in Yes, We Can. He will be dodging bullets, hopefully the unleaded ones!

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